Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Video Games, Free Speech and Socialism

Thomas Riggins

Under socialism society would work to improve the well being of all its members. Individuals would be free to say and do what they wish with the proviso that they could not engage in activities that were harmful to others. There would also be a rich civil society wherein groups and organizations could form to pursue ends and activities that interested them, again with the only restraint being that they could not hurt others in pursuit of their special aims.

This kind of society would be very different from the capitalist society we are presently living under where individuals and groups are allowed to form that do pursue aims that are hurtful to others. Private businesses and corporations, for example, can form with the purpose, and indeed the duty, to increase their capital and make private profits.

There is nothing wrong with that as long as their activities are beneficial to society or at least do not harm others. In fact we have in the US a Bill of Rights as part of our Constitution and its function is to protect members of society to the extent of giving them certain rights to engage in individual and group actions which the government as such might not approve of.

What a socialist government would approve of is, in many instances, very different from what our present capitalist government would approve of. In the case of the application of the Bill of Rights there would presumably be certain activities prohibited under one form of government that would be allowed under the other.

For example, I think violent video games should be prohibited under any form of government, but definitely under socialism, and I don't think any violation of the Bill of Rights is involved.

Under our present capitalist government, however, special interest groups, whose goal is profit regardless of the harm that might be done to others, produce and sell violent video games and claim protection under the first amendment in the Bill of Rights (freedom of speech) to do so.

Why I think this is wrong is based on the following scientific evidence from Science Daily of 26 May 2011 ("Violent Video Games Reduce Brain Response to Violence and Increase Aggressive Behavior, Study Suggests").

This science report starts by informing us that;"Scientists have known for years that playing violent video games causes players to become more aggressive." Just what we need in our violence prone gun toting society where people are gunned down daily in the streets. Well, anyway, ''knowing that" and "knowing why" are two different questions. SD says new findings at the University of Missouri have discovered at least one reason why these games lead to aggressive behavior: "the brains of violent video game players become less responsive to violence, and this diminished brain response predicts an increase in aggression."

Dr. Bruce Bartholow, one of the scientists conducting the study, is quoted as saying: "Many researchers have believed that becoming desensitized to violence leads to increased human aggression. Until our study, however, this causal association had never been demonstrated experimentally."

In the experiment, people played violent and nonviolent video games and then played competitive games with an opponent in which they could inflict a painful stimulus to the loser. The games were rigged so the winners would be the ones who had just played the two types of video games. The experiment showed that those who had played the violent games inflicted more painful stimuli. There was a series of tests as well all of which reached the same conclusions about brain activity and aggression related to violent video games.

There is always the possibility that some third unknown factor is responsible for both the desire to play violent video games and the diminished brain activity that leads to aggressive behavior. But so far all the evidence points to the violent video games as the cause of the aggressive behavior.

Dr. Bartholow pointed out, according to SD, that evidence shows that grade school children on average are playing video games for forty hours a week-- more than any other activity. The scientists say young "children could become accustomed to violent behavior as their brains are forming." What kind of rational decent society would allow such a thing? Certainly not a socialist one. There is nothing in the first amendment that protects speech that is dangerous and harmful to the public. Violent video games should be treated just as falsely "shouting 'Fire' in a crowded theatre."i.e., as a clear and present danger to any society-- capitalist or socialist.

We don't want our kids to smoke, drink, or eat too much as that would hurt their bodies. But violent and aggressive (and unemployed) young brains are just what the military recruiters are looking for as we will need to expand the all volunteer army in the years ahead as our commitments in the middle east and Africa grow. A socialist society will have no need to bring up its youth in this way.

The last word goes to Dr. Bartholow: "More than any other media, these video games encourage active participation in violence. From a psychological perspective, video games are excellent teaching tools because they reward players for engaging in certain types of behavior.
Unfortunately, in many popular video games, the behavior is violence."

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